The NBA playoffs are just getting interesting but the Washington Wizards are getting focused on next season. Last week’s NBA lottery didn’t go Washington’s way and the team will forfeit its 2016 first round pick in this year’s draft to the Phoenix Suns as part of an in-season trade that landed the team versatile forward Markieff Morris. After failing to qualify for this year’s postseason, the Wizards have their work cut out for them. But, they’ll start from scratch this summer as they attempt to rebuild the team without a pick in this year’s draft and as they decide who to retain from a roster that could potentially have 10 free agents this summer.
Washington will enter the summer with just five players under contract for next season when the NBA salary cap is expected to jump by nearly $20 million. Returning for sure next season will be John Wall, Marcin Gortat, Otto Porter, Kelly Oubre Jr. and Morris. Guard Bradley Beal will enter the summer as a restricted free agent but Washington is expected to retain Beal at any cost in lieu of the salary cap increase. Next year’s cap is expected to increase to $89 million, leaving Washington with plenty of buffer room as the five returning players will only account for close to $43 million. The Wizards aren’t expected to pick up team options on forwards Jarell Eddie and Drew Gooden.
Wizards’ General Manager Ernie Grunfeld will begin crunching the numbers in a few weeks as he decides who of the pending eight free agents he’ll want to retain. The sizable list of free agents includes: Alan Anderson, Nene, Jared Dudley, Ramon Sessions, Garrett Temple, J.J. Hickson, Marcus Thornton and Beal. Aside from Beal, the team will strongly consider retaining Temple, Dudley and possibly Anderson. While Sessions was effective in a reserve role behind Wall, his play may have priced him out of Washington’s future plans. Thornton provided veteran play and instant offense off the bench but the team will have to be pinpoint accurate in what will undoubtedly be a pivotal offseason.
Depending on what the Wizards decide to do with Gooden and Eddie, Washington could open the offseason with close to $29 million in cap space when free agency begins on July 1. If the cap jumps as expected then that number could rise just north of $40 million. The Wizards have been linked to pending free agent Kevin Durant but the team might look to pursue other options as they’ll be among the few teams with significant cap space to work with and a short window. Washington will want to use its cap room to rebuild its roster but that could prove difficult to do if the team chooses to wait on a decision from Durant while other teams will look to work quickly once free agency begins.
With critical decisions looming, the Wizards are unsure how this offseason will play out but one thing that will be guaranteed is that Washington will have a completely new look to them when they open the 2016-2017 campaign.